Shoreham, Kent, England CALMG : 1949.125.52 watercolour

Harvest Moon, Shoreham 1830-31 by Samuel Palmer

This small watercolour focuses on a spectacular full moon and harvesting, one of Palmer’s favourite subjects due to its religious overtones. The harvesters are wearing brightly coloured smocks and are moving down the hillside towards the village. The church spire emphasises the religious significance of the scene. In reality Shoreham Church has a tower rather than a spire. Palmer has also exaggerated the steepness of the chalkland slopes around Shoreham. Vivid jewel-like colours like egg-yolk yellow show how experimental Palmer’s use of colour was at this time. He has applied the watercolour with a thick brush over very decisive drawing. It is not signed or dated which suggests it was not intended for exhibition.

Samuel Palmer is one of Britain’s most original artists. He created richly coloured visionary landscapes often featuring familiar pastoral subjects. His friend, William Blake, the great Romantic poet and painter, was his most important artistic influence. Palmer’s outstanding radical early work had a profound influence on British art. Palmer’s work is closely associated with Shoreham in north-west Kent. Palmer lived there from 1827–1835 and a group of artists called The Ancients formed around him. Palmer produced the most distinctive work of his career here. His art depicts God’s abundance in nature and rural harmony in familiar pastoral scenes. He painted fields of ripened corn, the harvest, shepherds, sheep, the night sky and villages all protected by surrounding hills. In reality, rural unrest was taking place fuelled by bad harvests, poverty and exploitation of agricultural workers. Palmer had an ecstatic response to nature which he expressed through intense colour effects and decisive drawing. He also transformed the appearance of natural forms through miniaturisation, magnification and shadows.

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